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melbourne: a quick guide to the cbd

Although I haven’t lived there for over four years now, I do like to think of myself as a Melbourne local. This guide includes some of the places in the CBD and its surrounds that I like to take visiting non-Melbournians; the others have been shown to me by people who have a bigger claim to being a ‘local’ than me. This is just a quick overview of places you can go, but if you have the time, Melbourne is a great  city to explore for yourself. It is also advisable to venture out of the CBD as a lot of the inner-city suburbs are fun too. And, they’re only a tram ride away!


Coffee and Chocolate

Melbourne is a pretty unique place for coffee in that it doesn’t suck here. With a heavy Italian influence, Melbourne is definitely an Australian coffee mecca.

Little Mule on Somerset Place (off Little Bourke Street)is a cute warehouse coffee place with bicycles hanging from the ceiling. Very hipster, so the coffee is nice. The staff are also friendly and they have a nice selection of baked goods and other eatables.

Chocolait is in Royal Arcade (off Elizabeth Street) with a wide selection of different kinds of chocolate flavoured beverages. Get hot chocolate that is whatever percentage of cocoa you like.

If you’ve just got into the city and need a pick me up, a wander around some of the arcades and laneways off Flinders Lane (particularly on Degraves Street between Swanston and Elizabeth streets) will give you plenty to choose from, and I haven’t had a bad coffee from there yet. The cafes tend to incorporate really interesting design with a friendly feel.

Koko Black is in a number of locations, but my favourite is the store ins Block Arcade (off Elizabeth Street). There, you can sit on lounges upstairs and indulge in rich, delicious chocolate – they have hot chocolates, iced chocolates, sorbets, mousse and more.


Quirky Shops

The laneways and alleyways, heck, even the main streets of the CBD have a plethora of amazing shops.

Books and Readables

Readings on Lygon Street is a place you could whittle away hours in between the shelves. It has a particularly strong cultural studies section and their bargains table is actually worth a legitimate gander. A really great atmosphere and very late opening hours.

Sticky in Campbell Arcade (get to it by descending stairs on Flinders Street) houses an amazing collection of zines and other DIY miscellany. The zines themselves are usually cheap and always entertaining.

Magnation on Elizabeth Street is three stories high and filled with magazines and stationery. The most fun thing to do there, in my opinion, is track down the conspiracy theory magazines and have a good laugh.

Metropolis is in Curtin House on Swanston Street. It’s a really cool collection of art, design, humour and gift books, specialising in the offbeat.

Reader’s Feast on Collins Street is another great book store. It has very strong fiction and travel sections. Their catalogue is also worth taking home.

The Foreign Language Bookshop on Collins Street is perfect for anyone learning or wanting to learn a language. They stock films, music, books, learning materials, magnetic poetry, Scrabble, pretty much anything that would help you take those important steps towards fluency. A touch pricey, but worth the visit.



The Original Lolly Store on Lygon Street stocks lollies, chocolate and soft drink from the US and the UK as well as more local treats. Going in there and just looking at the brought coloured confection is a treat unto itself.

Suga is in Block Arcade (off Elizabeth Street) and also at the Queen Victoria Markets. They make sweet hard lollies of all sorts of flavours right in front of your eyes. Sometimes you can buy candy off-cuts, leaving you with good-value giant shards of sweetness.

Haigh’s is my favourite chocolate shop. They make bars and buttons of various types of chocolate. For the more adventurous, they stock giant chocolate frogs and chocolate cod as well as interesting flavoured bars such as chai, apricot, peppermint, orange, cherry, and others. You can find them in the Royal Arcade, on Swanston Street or on Collins Street.



Wunderkammer on Lonsdale Street is a shop full of medical antiques, rocks and taxidermied animals. Yes, it is a bit creepy. It is also extremely impressive and fun to browse.

The NGV Gift Shop in Federation Square (off Flinders Street) has a cute range of designer items as well as art books. The toy section will make you drool, regardless of your age!

Clegs on Elizabeth St is a wonderful fabric shop featuring many great, bold designs. Great for any crafster.

Minotaur on Elizabeth Street has something for every consumer of popular culture. You should definitely go, even if you don’t identify yourself as a geek. From fans of Doctor Who to the Beatles, from Harry Potter to Star Trek, from The Simpsons to Buffy, etc. There is also a huge range of Anime DVDs , science fiction and fantasy books as well as a large array of comics.

Retrostar Vintage Clothing in the Nicholls Building on Swanston St has a really cool range of vintage clothing, shoes, and accessories. It makes for fun browsing, regardless of whether you want to buy anything.


Places to Eat

Lord of the Fries either on Flinders Street, in Flinders Street Station or Melbourne Central Station boasts a completely vegetarian menu including vege burgers disguised as hamburgers (which taste just like hamburgers) and, best of all, the greatest fries ever (surely). The fries come with a range of different sauces, including aioli, mango chutney, cheese and tomato, and many others.

Pretty much all of Lygon Street has excellent Italian food. It also tends to be fairly well-priced. Brunetti is awesome for sweet things.

Chinatown on Little Bourke Street also has awesome Chinese (and other Asian) food which is very cheap. I’ve never been to a bad restaurant there.

Mrs. Parma’s on Little Bourke Street does an amazing chicken (or, if you’re vegetarian, eggplant) parmigana. If you like your beer, they also have a micro-brewery on-site.

Settebello off Hardware Lane (off Little Bourke Street) is a small place which has a great range of pizzas, foccacias and sandwiches. They also do brioche and fantastic looking desserts. Go for breakfast or lunch.

The Queen Victoria Markets always have tasty pastries, bread, fruit, meats, and other produce.



Sister Bella on Sniders Lane (off Drewery Lane off Lonsdale Street): Interesting location – probably best not to go there alone, dirty and dark laneways, an adult shop and garbage bins. Inside is both edgy and comfy. Good for ambiance.

The Toff in Town in Curtin House on Swanston Street has live jazz and cabaret nights and private booths. It’s a really cool place to be.

New Guernica on Little Collins St has indoor gazebos, cubby houses, pictures of ducks and a red carpet entrance. Bring a camera because the interior is so quirky and unique, you’ll want to show your friends.


Hanging Out

I love sitting on the banks south of the Yarra, just off St Kilda Road. It’s especially great during a summer afternoon when you can watch young private school rowers being hounded by a coach who ‘could have made it to nationals’.

The Royal Botanical Gardens is a lovely place to wander around and have a lie in the grass, weather permitting, of course.

The stairs of The State Library of Victoria on Swanston Street is a fun place to sit for lunch. Be mindful of the abundant birds though.

And, of course, Federation Square on Flinders Street has a large amount of space for all your sitting needs.

Have we missed something? Shoot through your recommendations below!

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